How my iPhone lost all its data in one fell swoop

14 07 2007

It happened to me, and it can happen to you, too. I was charging up my iPhone. All the data was there one minute, and gone the next. I was able to recover it all by re-syncing, but I don’t know if my nerves will ever recover. Here’s how it happened.


I have my iPhone synced up to an iMac, and this works fine. But I have several computers in the house. And of course, I can barely take my hands off the iPhone these days. I’m watching podcasts, watching movies, listening to music, and so on. Unfortunately, the thing needs charging, but I don’t want to let it go. So, I want to keep it charged as much as possible when I’m using it around the house. I have an extra USB docking cable, and to keep it charged, I plugged that cable into my MacBook Pro laptop, and then into the iPhone. I heard the now-familiar “plink” sound that means the phone has started charging. But then I noticed. Poof! Almost all the data on the iPhone had vanished!


What happened, was that in addition to starting a charge cycle, the iPhone had happily started syncing with the MacBook. The unwanted sync had, in seconds, erased all the music, movies, and podcasts on the phone, and matched it up with the media I had on the MacBook, which was almost nothing. iTunes was in the backgroung, and I hadn’t noticed on the computer screen that this was happening.


As I recall, this process can happen with an iPod as well. But I think when you plug an iPod into a different computer, you get a dialog box that asks you if you want to sync the device up with the new computer. This didn’t happen with the iPhone. It simply started to sync with the new computer. Apple, we’ve got a little buglet here! The phone should see it is on a new computer and ask before syncing to it.


After recovering from the near heart attack from suddenly having my iPhone go almost blank, I realized that all I had to do is plug the iPhone back into the original computer, and everything syncs back in. It went smoothly, but this was over 7GB of stuff, and it took a while.


There are a couple of things you can do to prevent this problem. You can not plug the phone into another computer. I could have used the charger that plugs into the wall, for example. Or, you can turn off the “Automatically sync when this phone is connected” chackbox that appears in the iPhone settings in iTunes. With this off, you can plug into the second computer to charge it. Another trick? Use a FireWire iPod doc cable for charging the iPhone to another computer. Since the iPhone does not have a FireWire port, the computer will not recognize it, but the phone will still charge.


Anyway, until Apple gets this little problem fixed, I thought I’d warn you about plugging your iPhone into another computer without paying much attention. Have fun with your iPhone!




3 responses

16 07 2007

It turns out there is a new preference in iTunes that cam help this situation. In iTunes Preferences, there is an iPhone tab, and in there is a checkbox that says “Disable automatic syncing for all iPhones”. If you turn this on, that computer will not sync an iPhone, even if the phone itself, as seen in theiTunes iPhones tab on the main screen when the phone is plugged in, is set to “Automatically sync when this iPhone is connected”. The settings are a somewhat conflicting, but it can fix the above problem.

So, on the main iTunes iPhone section, you can have “Automatically sync when this iPhone is connected” turned on (a setting that is carried along in the iPhone itself). On the main computer, in iTunes preferences, keep “Disable automatic syncing for all iPhones” turned off (the default). But on any other computers you might plug the iPhone into (for recharging) turn the iTunes preference “Disable automatic syncing for all iPhones” on, to prevent the phone from mistakenly syncing to those secondary computers.

6 08 2007
Joyce Bishop

I have a somewhat related question. My data was also deleted when I tried to sync to anew computer. The iPhone will only let me sync to the old computer I’m getting rid of shortly. Any ideas?

24 04 2008

I ran into the same issue, and it was a real eye opener. I find apples attitude that they own your content too obnoxious to keep the phone. See for details…


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